"Over the years, we have attempted to look after the health and livelihoods of our communities. It is now that we want to put a greater focus on what our communities share in common: faith. It is our faith that unites us and that has brought us strength to endure and survive. It is our hope that through health, agriculture, livelihoods and faith, we can build a sustainable, peaceful and united community."
You can read more of Fr Arnaldo's touching words here: Letters from Fr Arnaldo and the village heads
To put it in context, Eraulo is a village encompassing six hamlets – two of which, alone, have 185 family heads registered in the parish. Each family has a minimum of eight people living in the house. The population of the entire area is estimated to be about 4,000 people.
For any significant change or progress to occur, agreement must be reached with many different parties. Their common faith provides an important building block for peaceful cooperation.
LETS chairperson, Georgina Loughnan, explains, "In 2010, I spent two months in this village, and was so overwhelmed by the faith and devotion of the people. I listened while they explained the reason behind their need for a new church". The Parish Priest at that time, Fr Arnaldo, has given a lasting aspiration for his people through the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus project:
In 2003, the village of Eraulo welcomed the building of a youth development centre, with the understanding that a new chapel would eventually replace their existing dilapidated place of worship.
In 2005, local communities came together to build the St Bakhita Health Clinic, in response to the growing need for health care. Plans for the building of a new chapel were again discussed, but the supporters left Timor Leste due to the uprisings of 2006.
This was a timely reminder of how far they had come in surmounting their country's violent history. Since Timor Leste's formal declaration of independence in 2002, these people had struggled to establish infrastructure and make progress in this developing country.
With their ever-present tenacity, the people of Letefoho laboured on. In 2009, agriculture and rural training programs were added to the centre. These were to help diversify the local economy and generate high quality produce to market.
By now, everyone agreed that major steps forward had been made in establishing a viable future for this community. The time had come to build upon the spirit of co-operation and cement the foundations of peaceful co-existence...
In 1999, Eddie de Pina (who had come to Australia in 1975 as an East Timorese refugee) decided to return to the land of his ancestors. His personal mission was to assist the youth of this newly independent, very poor nation.
Eddie arrived with a backpack and the support of Leeuwin Care, a group of friends from Western Australia. He firmly believed his nation would only ever progress and grow by taking responsibility for their own future through courage, education and dignity.
Eventually, Eddy was granted land in the village of Eraulo - part of the remote mountainous subdistrict of Letefoho in the Ermera district. A small chapel that had been poorly built in 1987 already existed on this land. In 1992, plans to build a new chapel were drawn up, but never actioned.
The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was commissioned in September,
2011. The foundations were completed in 2012 and the first stage of
construction finished in 2013.
The roof has now been completed. This will be the focal church of the Parish, as the large Parish church in Letefoho is crumbling. We are privileged to be assisting in the building of this church.
This project is being undertaken by the local villagers with the support of five Indonesian builders. The land was cleared by the villagers, the rocks for the foundations brought from the nearby river, the bricks made by a hand-loaded brick machine, and all materials positioned by hand.
No cranes and minimal scaffolding have been used.
We have the great privilege of helping to fund the building of a new church in Eraulo. This church will be highly significant to the whole of the Ermera region as it will be the centre of the apostolates for this area. There is no way to describe how utterly fundamental this project is to the people of this region and to the Parish of Letefoho.
The building of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church will realise a 20-year plan. Together, LETS support the people of Letefoho in what is most important in their lives and has sustained them throughout their war-torn past - their faith in God.